A group of women calling themselves the ‘Voices of the Foreigner’s Wives’ have called for urgent intervention in Grahamstown where xenophobia has reared its head. Almost 500 people have been directly affected by xenophobic attacks in Grahamstown. Men have been evacuated from the town for their safety while their wives and children remain behind, not confident that police will protect them.
Protests have erupted in the student town as a result of taxi driver grievances as well as the recent student led protests which swept throughout South Africa. However, after the student protests died down, stores in the less affluent part of town remain shut due to violent xenophobic attacks that have been plaguing the migrant community in the area.
The shops targeted shops are owned by Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Ethiopian, Somali, Nigerian, Malawian, Zimbabwean, Egyptian, Senegalese, Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Palestinian, and Chinese residents of Grahamstown. They are mostly Muslim, because of rumours that an “Arab man with a beard” was guilty of committing several murders and mutilations in recent months.
Barabra Anne Ali, a wife of a migrant and a South African citizen says that these rumours are completely false and the police and politicians in the area have done nothing to deter these rumours.
“The police have found no evidence to suggest that a foreigner has been behind these murders,” Ali explained.
“We as the wives of the foreigners have appealed to the community to listen to us and to tell people that these rumours need to stop, it’s not about the killings anymore, it’s about the looting and the vandalism and the threats received.”
Rabiah Mahmoud, another wife of a migrant added that their husbands have been taken to a place of safety, but the wives and children of the migrants are still left vulnerable without protection.
On Friday at 1pm, the collective of women will gather at the City Hall in Grahamstown in order to protest the victimisation that they are currently facing. Outside the hall the wives will hand over a memorandum with the following demands:
– Jacob Zuma and his cabinet visit Grahamstown to determine the situation and meets with the women to discuss this crisis and a way forward
– The police, the councillors and the mayor need to communicate clearly with the community about what is happening with the killings. This must happen immediately.
– The media must clearly communicate that rumours about the killings in Grahamstown are not true. Radio Grahamstown must issue an apology for giving space to these rumours and they must convey the correct information.
– There must be a full investigation into the role of police, the taxi association and the councillors in these attacks.
– Home Affairs need to set up a special process to get new passports for the women’s husbands.
-Their husbands need to be safe to be able to come back and open their shops and the women and children need to be reassured of their safety
– People must accept the way that they dress.
– The government must provide support to assist the women to rebuild their shops and homes.
– The police must investigate these killings properly and must communicate the progress of their investigation properly.
– The police must investigate the attacks VOC (Umarah Hartley)